12 Jul 2013 11:19

SINTOK, July 4(Bernama) -- Malaysia's private sector has been urged to focus on enhancing competitiveness and venturing into overseas markets with the pending full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 2015.

Former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said apart from this, the private sector should also be prepared to accept foreign participation in the country's small market.

"In the context of Malaysia, we do not face much problems, except to enhance competitiveness," she added.

She told Bernama this after delivering a lecture,"Issues and Challenges:Preparing to Face 1Asean 2015" at the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) here today.

Rafidah is an Adjunct Professor at the Business Management School of the UUM College of Business.

She said Malaysia's private sector also needs to work harder to defend and reinvigorate its own markets to compete in a free market.

"The government has prepared good infrastructure, comparable to what is in many Asean countries, with the exception of Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

"If these four countries can improve their development and infrastructure, Asean will really be able to strengthen its economic community within a short time.

"This places Asean in a position of sufficient and strong potential for attracting investments," Rafidah said.

She also said various frameworks and agreements had been signed between the Asean countries to facilitate cooperation and intensive trade for a barrier free market.

According to her, Asean with a population of 612 million and recorded trade of US$2.213 trillion, had the potential to become more dynamic, with harmonised laws to encourage investments in a big way.

"Asean is fortunate in that its economic community is helped by China, Korea and Japan. Asean's integration with its neighbours, will further enhance its ability to compete at home and outside it.

In her lecture, Rafidah said Asean countries could not afford to fight on their own against the world's economic giants and had no choice but join forces and cooperate.

She said issues such as integrity, illegal workers, smuggling and the crossing of borders illegally, are topics of discussion, which should be tackled as soon as possible.